Both FC Porto and Chelsea FC retain hope of sealing a UEFA Champions League quarter-final place after sharing two goals in an eventful first leg at the Estádio do Dragão.
In the two years since José Mourinho departed Porto after guiding them to success in this competition, the Portuguese champions have never progressed beyond the last 16. The belief that it will be third time lucky was raised when Raul Meireles broke the deadlock on 12 minutes but Chelsea quickly levelled through Andriy Shevchenko and could even have earned victory when Didier Drogba hit the post late on. The visitors will no doubt settle for a draw but an early injury to John Terry could overshadow any positives.
Porto is currently hosting its annual international film festival and the drama of the opening stages read like an imaginative script. Michael Ballack should have done better when Claude Makelele's cross found him in space, before Terry turned his ankle after an innocuous clearance. With memories of Chelsea's troubles without their talismanic captain still fresh in the memory, Mourinho sought to give him as much time as possible to recover. It backfired. With Terry lying on the sidelines, Raul Meireles made the breakthrough, reacting quickest to Makelele's weak headed clearance and volleying past Petr Čech, via the boot of Frank Lampard.
John Obi Mikel had his tracksuit off when the goal went in, yet it was Arjen Robben who replaced Terry for the restart and this time Mourinho's decision proved inspired. Within minutes the winger had put Shevchenko through on goal and the Ukrainian rifled past the despairing Helton with his left foot. It silenced the vociferous home crowd but Porto responded well, as makeshift defender Michael Essien and right-back Lassana Diarra, making his first start in the competition, struggled to cope with the lively Ricardo Quaresma and Hélder Postiga.
Only the quick reactions of Čech denied Lisandro López after he was put through by Hélder Postiga midway through the half, before it was, inevitably, crowd favourite Ricardo Quaresma who raised the most cheer when he rattled the crossbar with a stunning long-range strike using the outside of his boot. Porto began the second period in a similar vein, as they sought to replicate the 2-1 reverse dealt to Mourinho on his first return to the Dragão two seasons ago. The teaser posed by a large Porto banner on the halfway line: "Esta noite seremos..." (Tonight we will be) appeared to have a positive ending.
The Premiership title-holders slowly found their shape though, with Mikel, who had come on for Robben at the break, providing more fortitude in midfield, cutting off the supply to Porto's dangerous left flank and freeing up space for Chelsea's quiet strikers. Drogba fashioned his first shot of the game midway through the half and though the effort trickled harmlessly wide, it spurred him on. With 13 minutes remaining, the Ivorian might have stolen a win when he thumped his attempt against the post from an acute angle but Porto held on. They will travel to Stamford Bridge on 6 March with hopes of an upset intact.